Over the last decade, mobile app development has boomed. From a luxury that a minority owned to a basic necessity, smartphones have become ever more popular and that shows no sign of slowing down.
As the usage of smartphones has developed, so too has the need for fast, well-designed and responsive apps, on both Android and iOS. In 2020, there were 218 billion app downloads – a number which is rising year on year.
In fact, 92% of time spent on mobile phones is now spent on apps, a figure that illustrates just how important apps now are for businesses and consumers alike. This is in stark contrast to the 8% of time which is spent browsing the web on mobile phones. This shift is raises questions about where businesses should invest their money – in mobile websites, or in apps.
The Professionals Leading Innovation in the Field
With this growth in the popularity of apps comes the need for highly skilled developers. But what makes a successful developer? What skills do they need? We spoke to three who are excelling in their field to learn about their careers and to hear their advice for people hoping to follow their lead.
A career in app development involves working on a wide range of exciting and creative projects. The role has excellent potential for progression and allows people to work with innovative new technology. We discussed how technology can be used in the most effective and efficient way, to deliver projects with excellent user experience.
“Sometimes People in My Position Cannot Listen Effectively to Their Teams”
Fedor Pudeyan is a Lead iOS Developer at Profoto, where he has worked for the last year. With 10 years’ experience in iOS development, Fedor is highly experienced at his role. He moved from web development to iOS due to the interest and excitement that builds around mobile apps.
“In general, I liked what Apple devices did. What mobiles give me is that ability to take my phone out and show what I am working on right away.”
Fedor is now leading a team. Although he has a wealth of knowledge in his role, his key advice for anyone hoping to become successful in the industry is to listen to the input of others and use that input to continue to learn and develop.
“Don’t think that you’re right all the time.”
Fedor explains that when you think you are right all the time, you don’t listen effectively to your team and this can result in friction, dissatisfaction and a poorer quality of work. Instead, he has banished the idea that certain team members, including managers, are irreplaceable.
“I eliminated that to the extent that I’m not irreplaceable myself. And this is the outcome, but I’m fine with that. I lead them to grow, I lead them to make decisions and to communicate to each other. That’s more beneficial to the efficiency to the company, than just to push your opinion and what you think is right.”
In terms of the challenges that people who enter the industry might face, Fedor believes that the biggest one can be changing processes that a company is already used to. These processes may be inefficient and time-consuming, but the upheaval as a new process is brought in and staff members adjust to it can be difficult to manage.
Making his team work effectively and produce high quality maintainable results was enabled by good practices and processes in place:
“We used a regular System Design Reviews for teammates to shape the technical implementation, and Architectural Decision Records (ADR) where we fixed our consensus from those Reviews.”
One of the most advantageous parts of Fedor’s career is the breadth of new technologies available to work on, and the opportunity to continue to develop his skills in a range of environments.
“Do Something that You Really Like Because You Will do that for a Long Time”
Stefano Vecchiati is a Senior iOS Engineer at P.F.C. He has a vast array of experience in the iOS field, helped by his time as a freelancer when he had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects. He also spent some time as an iOS teacher. Stefano’s advice for anyone who wants to enter the tech industry is clear – do what you enjoy.
“Do something that you really like or at least think you might really like, because you will do that for a long time. You need to have fun and also enjoy what you’re doing.”
Becoming skilled and successful at a technology role takes a long time, so it is important to try to find a role that you are passionate about. It is also a good idea to try to collaborate, and ask for help whenever it is needed.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A lot of developers are isolated, so in a way they’re afraid to ask for help. It’s also nice to ask people to create a community.”
When developing projects that are innovative and creative, there can sometimes be a disconnect between the developer and the end user. It is important to keep the user in mind to ensure that the product works for them.
“I think I’m less technical today. Or at least I care less about technical implementation. Maybe we should think more about the users. My struggle with today is not a lot of people understand this.”
The principle of asking why a company is doing certain things in a certain way is a large part of Stefano’s methodology. He is keen to encourage more dynamic thinking to really improve user experience and efficiency within the role.
Stefano’s philosophy – for life and for iOS development – is to learn from mistakes and use them to continue to develop and improve.
“I did that, I learned from that. Today I‘m totally the opposite because I learned from that mistake.”
“I’m Really, Really Obsessed with the User Experience”
Michael Akerman is a Software Architect at the Swedish Migration Agency. He began his working life in the music industry, before branching out into tech engineering roles for small companies, where he used his knowledge to develop create programmes.
“Even then, I was really, really obsessed that the end user experience would be great. I have a passion for creating great products that really touch people’s hearts and that are really easy to use.”
In 2007, Michael began working with mobile applications, developing apps for both business to business and business to consumer. He is currently working on the digital transformation of the Swedish Migration Agency, heading mobile development through apps for both Android and iOS.
For Michael, one of the key pieces of advice he has for anyone hoping to start a career in app development is to grow a deep understanding of the business models behind the technology choices that you make.
“Understand whatever tech you use, even if it’s open source, try to understand where it’s going to go, try to understand the roadmap and try to understand what the supplier is making money from, because that’s going to play into whether it is worth it for you to spend time or not.”
Good technology choices lead to a more successful product with a better user experience.
Another consideration to provide an excellent user experience is the environment that you use to review your project.
“A big mistake that I see both developers and software architects make is always looking at your tech in your environment. Even if you make a mobile website, or a mobile app, you look it on your desktop screen and you make design choices that are not really connected to the reality of the user.”
The success of a project is based heavily on user experience, and failing to review a design in the user’s environment can have a big negative impact. This also applies to response times for apps. Just a few seconds’ increase in response time leads to a huge drop off in consumer engagement, which is an issue for the success of a project. Michael’s advice is clear:
“You need to use designs in the context where the user should use it. Using it in the comfy home environment of your development office or your home office is one big mistake I see a lot of people do.”